Viljo Revell’s Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square (1965) is a well-loved Modernist icon. Completed after his death, the heritage-designated square was true to the spatial arrangement Revell had envisioned; over time, however, it had become run-down and dysfunctional. In 2006, the City of Toronto launched an international competition to redesign NPS. The winning design strategically rethinks the Square to transform it into an exemplary 21st-Century public space, drawing inspiration from Revell’s own references to classical Athenian political spaces. Through the redesign or relocation of existing elements and a new series of buildings and gardens framing the open plaza, the NPS Revitalization enhances the functionality, versatility, and appeal of Toronto’s signature civic space while augmenting this monumental heritage site’s “connectedness” to its surroundings.

View of the theatre from the east (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
View of the theatre at midday
View of the theatre stage (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
View of the stage from the elevated walkways
View of the theatre (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The theatre at dusk

Revell’s elevated walkways frame the Square and focus views towards the council chamber – as in the Athenian agora, the threshold of a porch (stoa) at the perimeter clearly defined the interior void. This definition was never fully developed, however, in NPS as built. To strengthen the coherence of the Square, the design team executed four tactical moves:

  1. Open the Square – remove clutter at the centre to accommodate all kinds of large cultural gatherings
  2. Create programmed, porous, landscaped “green rooms” around the perimeter to frame the square
  3. Create new activated connections between the raised walkway and the Square
  4. Strengthen links between levels and between zones using new architecture as the bridge to connect the two levels of the square
Disappearing fountains (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Disappearing fountains
Stage and skate pavilion align to frame the square (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Stage and skate pavilion align to frame the square

Major architectural components include the redesigned Skate Pavilion and creation of a permanent Stage with back-of-house suspended below in the parking garage. All new structures are multi-purpose and connect to the walkways. The glass-canopied, terraced form of the theatre provides covered public space and casual seating when not in use for performances, and its stairs connect the raised walkway to the Square. Small events can take place with performers facing westward toward stairs that double as bleacher seating; for larger events, those on the stage face eastward to overlook the entire Square.

View of the skate pavilion looking southwest (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The skate pavilion in the summer
Skate pavilion upper level terrace (photo: Steven Evans Photpgraphy)
Skate pavilion upper level terrace · Photo: Steven Evans Photpgraphy
Skate pavilion breezeway (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Skate pavilion breezeway
View of the skate pavilion from the southwest (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Skate pavilion breezeway

A Peace Garden added in 1983 near the centre of the Square had compromised the space’s openness and ability to accommodate crowds – relocating it to the western edge freed up the Square’s centre for larger events. The terraced seating of the new Peace Garden is a major structure that conceals the underground parking garage’s exhaust duct while muffling its sound and redirecting the airflow. Other elements include a playground redesign, a new Sculpture Garden, a new forecourt along Queen Street, and a future two-storey restaurant. Although not yet completed, the master plan includes refurbishing the existing elevated walkways with gardens and seating.

Peace garden at night (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Peace garden at night
Peace garden (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Peace garden
Queen Street streetscape (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Queen Street streetscape
Playground (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Playground

Prior to the revitalization, City Hall’s podium was a grim, paved void: it is now Toronto’s largest publicly accessible green roof, a popular urban retreat for sitting and strolling. The Podium Roof Garden’s plantings, which change seasonally from bright yellows and oranges in the southwest to deep reds and purples in the northeast, were chosen to thrive in the site’s challenging shade and wind conditions.

Podium roof garden (photo: Peter Schaudt)
Podium roof garden · Photo: Peter Schaudt
The Podium green roof from above (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The Podium green roof from above
The garden in fall (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The garden in fall
The garden in spring (photo: Gabriel Li)
The garden in spring · Photo: Gabriel Li
Entry to the sculpture garden (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Entry to the sculpture garden
Stair beacons (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Stair beacons
Nuit Blanche (the next day) (photo: Steven Evans Photograpy)
Nuit Blanche (the next day) · Photo: Steven Evans Photograpy

Peace Garden

publiccivicparkgardengreen roofmemorialgraphics

nps-pg-2016-03-8 (photo: Steven Evans Photography)

project index

  1. A Conversation of Views
  2. Admiral Road Garden
  3. Airdrie Road Garden
  4. Airdrie Road Residence
  5. Albany Avenue Residence
  6. Aporia Records
  7. Asphalt Poetry
  8. – Poem
  9. Baby Point Gardens
  10. Beach Garden
  11. Beach Village BIA Master Plan
  12. Beaty Residence
  13. Bennington Heights Garden
  14. Berkeley Street Residence
  15. Bin-Scarth Garden
  16. Blink and you miss it.
  17. – Poem
  18. Bloor St. Apartment
  19. Blue Note
  20. Booth Avenue Residence
  21. Boustrophedon Garden
  22. Braemore Gardens Residence
  23. Browning Avenue Residence
  24. Brunswick Avenue Residence
  25. Camp Arowhon Offices
  26. Canadian Firefighters Memorial
  27. Centre for Teaching and Learning, UBCO
  28. Channelled Buried Moved Lost
  29. Chocolate Loft
  30. City Instrument
  31. Clarendon Garden
  32. Conversation Piece
  33. Creemore Farm
  34. Danforth Mosaic BIA Master Plan
  35. Dickson Park Garden
  36. Dilworth Residence
  37. Don Landing Revitalization
  38. Dublin Grounds of Remembrance
  39. Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden
  40. Dupont-by-the-Castle BIA
  41. East Point Bird Sanctuary
  42. Eglinton Ave Forecourt
  43. Eglinton Park Master Plan
  44. Elizabeth Fry Society
  45. Ellsworth Residence
  46. Face to Face | Tête à Tête
  47. First Avenue Garden
  48. First Avenue Residence
  49. Flyover Canada
  50. Foote’s Pond Wood
  51. Forest Hill Village Streetscape
  52. Gaze, Glimpse, Glance
  53. Goldring Landscape, University of Toronto
  54. Gormley Garden
  55. Governor's Bridge Lookout
  56. Greener P
  57. Greer Road Garden
  58. Greer Road Residence
  59. Guelph Bridge
  60. Head in the Clouds
  61. Helena Ave Residence 4
  62. Junction Craft Brewery
  63. Kelpies Competition
  64. Kew Gardens Streetscape
  65. Le jardin du repos
  66. Lenticular Curtain
  67. Liberty Village Parkettes
  68. Liza’s Garden
  69. Lynwood Garden
  70. Macroscape
  71. Markham Garden One
  72. Markham Street Residence Two
  73. Midtown Yonge Streetscape
  74. Mulock Arboretum
  75. Nathan Phillips Square
  76. – Streetscape
  77. – Peace Garden
  78. – Podium Roof Garden
  79. Orchard View Garden
  80. Osgoode Atkinson Green Competition
  81. Owl Cottage
  82. Paperstone Scissors
  83. Peripheral Sitings
  84. Pottery Road Crossing
  85. rare
  86. Ravine Forecourt
  87. Ribbon of the Lower Don
  88. Riverside BIA Master Plan
  89. Roxborough Garden One
  90. Roxborough Garden Two
  91. Ryerson Centre for Urban Innovation
  92. Schulich School of Business
  93. Sheridan College
  94. – Trafalgar Campus Master Plan
  95. Spadina Quay Wetland
  96. St. Anne's Road Garden
  97. Stratford Market Square Competition
  98. Stratford Patterson Theatre Competition
  99. Superkids Dental
  100. Superlegible
  101. Sweet Farm
  102. Sweet Farm Pond House
  103. Swift Medical Offices
  104. The Meadows Reconsidered
  105. The Red Sash
  106. Thick & Thin
  107. Tipping Point
  108. Tranby Garden
  109. Tree House Residence
  110. University of Toronto Mississauga Welcome Centre
  111. Venice Biennale 2012
  112. Vermont Square Park
  113. Vernon Avenue Garden
  114. Walk the Walk
  115. Walmer Road Residence
  116. Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial
  117. Wellesley Cottages Garden
  118. Wells Street Residence
  119. Westminster Residence
  120. With Words as Their Actions
  121. Woodlawn Avenue Residence
  122. Woven Stories
  123. York Park